How’s This for Cold?

In the bygone years of pre-internet, you only knew something if you read it or someone in authority told you it. I knew the expression “cold as a witch’s tit” and “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”; growing up in Michigan everyone did. I thought they had some vague but real reference to sexuality.

Four or five years ago, I read the Malleus Maleficarum, translated “The Hammer of Witches” or “The Witch Hammer” to make sure you understand it was the witches who were being hammered by this 15th century instruction book on how to suss them out. I also read Witchcraft at Salem which is much better. In one of the these, perhaps both, it was explained that the saying about witches arose from the fact that the Devil left a distinctive mark on the body of his witches. These were not necessarily on the breast and didn’t look like a teat. What distinguished them was they were colder than the rest of the body.

The brass monkey has a similar tale. I thought of brass statues of monkeys – kind of like the Bull on Wall Street– with prominent testacies. I thought of how cold brass gets. If you think the boy in A Christmas Story is stuck to the playground pipe, don’t try that with anything brass.

It turns out the expression has nothing to do with monkeys let alone their testacies. It has everything to do with brass. According to the Oxford Dictionary Of Word Histories, The phrase dates from late 19th century, and comes from a type of brass rack, or ‘monkey’ in which cannon balls were stored. These contracted in very cold weather ejecting the balls. Hence the expression “‘cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey’” (67).

These tales of my sexualizing the secular are only prologue to the following story that secularizes the truth to make it more palatable. The above authority sheds new light on just who were the original ‘bad boys’.

Bad is originally Middle English. The actual source of the derogatory adjective is not clear, but it could be related to the Old English baeddel, ‘hermaphrodite’ or ‘womanish man’. The author concludes in this 2002 Oxford publication that ‘bad’ “probably owes its sematic core to homophobic feelings.” But then he refers to an obsolete Old English word badling which was an “‘effeminate or worthless man’” (39).

If he is using ‘phobic’ in its usual sense of irrational, ungrounded, or prejudicial fear, I disagree. If he’s using in the sense normal sense of fear, I agree. Societies have uniformly been afraid of homosexuality. The Greeks were and the Romans after them. Womanish or effeminate men are not going to reproduce or defend their country. It’s true that the “male” in homosexual relationships will do the latter, but the hyperaggressive sexuality he displays in such thing as multiple partners and violent sex, has it’s own problems.

Homosexuality – even more than Lesbianism – is bad for a society. Ancient people knew this truth first seen in Scripture, and their vocabulary reflected it. How far the feminization of our society has progressed is seen in the statue offsetting it.

The Charging Bull on Wallstreet with its prominent manhood displayed which was placed in 1989 is since 2017 offset by the Fearless Girl. And if you’re honest, that statue would be more accurately titled Fearless Little Girl. This statue placed where it is, is an insult to true womanhood.

In a society where LGBTQ seeks to grind down the God-ordained and gifted differences between male and female, 21st century society starkly make the difference be between raging male sexuality and a girl. Reread Genesis 19 and Judges 19. Where there is raging male sexuality, which is its height in homosexuality, girls lose. Big time. And that really is cold. Chilling even.



About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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